HTC Thunderbolt 4G Debuts on Verizon, Will Customers 'Get' It?

Verizon Wireless' first 4G smartphone, the HTC Thunderbolt, which runs on the carrier's LTE network, makes its debut today and joins a fresh crop of next-generation smartphones sprouting up on all four major wireless networks.

The Thunderbolt has a 4.3-inch capacitive touchscreen, an 8-megapixel rear camera, 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera for video calls, can record video in high-definition, and is juiced up by a 1Ghz Snapdragon processor running Android 2.2. It also has personal hotspot functionality, HTC's Sense 2.0 UI and Flash 10.1 support.

As for that 4G network, users can expect download speeds of 5 to 12M bps and upload speeds of 2 to 5M bps in 4G coverage areas, according to Verizon, which matches the same speeds T-Mobile promises for its HSPA+ (Evolved High-Speed Packet Access) 4G network.

The Thunderbolt, which costs $250 with a new, two-year contract, will also come with its own signature mobile applications optimized for the device, such as EA's RockBand and Gameloft's Let's Golf, according to the carrier.

News of the Thunderbolt's release comes as a slew of 4G handsets begin rolling out. On AT&T, there's the HTC Inspire 4G and the Motorola Atrix 4G, while Sprint has the Evo 4g and new Evo Shift, along with the Samsung Epic 4G. T-Mobile's 4G family includes the myTouch 4G, Samsung Galaxy S 4G and the HTC HD7 Windows phone. Joining the Thunderbolt on Verizon is the Droid Bionic.

The advent of next-generation smartphones also comes amid the fierce competition in the mobile market OS, with Android in January out-pacing RIM's BlackBerry platform and Apple's iOS for the first time.

Meanwhile, the benefits of faster performance may be lost on the average consumer -- for now.

"By the end of 2011, the world’s most important 4G technology (LTE) will account for only 0.04 percent of all mobile lines. Penetration will be 0.33 percent in the U.S., but consumer awareness of 4G will remain stubbornly low. Despite operators’ substantial market budgets, by the end of 2011, less than 25 percent of North American consumers will understand what 4G means," says a recent Yankee Group report on 4G.

Still, the report says a slow adoption pace isn't a surprise, as it will take some time for consumers to "fully appreciate the link between a new wireless network technology and the superior user experiences it delivers."

Beyond this year, however, the 4G market is expected to take off, with over one-fifth of all U.S. mobile networks being LTE by 2014, the report says.

"During 2012, consumers’ awareness of 4G will also increase significantly -- it will climb to over 50 percent in the U.S. All of this 4G growth will be driven by the availability of more attractive devices and price plans, both fueled by intensifying competition among the leading mobile operators," according to the Yankee Group's forecast.


mobile, smartphone, Verizon, 4g, LTE